Amy's First Final Draft

I began writing my thesis on the negative impact of the Internet on college level study, when I realized that the Internet was even required to complete the assignment altogether. I cannot imagine a single day in the rest of my life in which I won’t find myself in a situation where the services of the Internet are needed in some way or another. It really has become a necessity, and here’s why. Email, instant message, “Facebook” and “Twitter” are by far the quickest and most convenient ways to connect and communicate with others. With this being said, it is not surprising that only one out of the one hundred people in my statistics class did not have a “Facebook” account when surveyed. In addition, the Internet presents “Google” and “Wikipedia,” two of the most convenient sources of finding information. While observing my peers in the library, it’s not a surprise to see them ignore the most accurate information (the thousands of books next to them,) and rush to a computer for a source of information instead. The Internet has spread to colleges and universities for various purposes, including instant campus notifications, online grading, and online course management. In doing so, the World Wide Web has positively affected the modern university by presenting great resources and convenience; however, its students are also negatively affected by their dependence on it and misuse of it.

It’s difficult to imagine how we all communicated years ago without the modern technology we have today. Communication was all about hand written letters that would take a long time to write, and an even longer time to be received. They couldn’t dream of a world in which one could instantly find information on a particular topic. If lucky, the right information could be found after searching in just a few books. However, it was more common to spend hours looking up a certain topic in numerous books until the right information was found, often outdated. It is evident that the Internet has caused quite a change in our world. What seemed to be impossible years ago is now at our fingertips. Since technology has advanced immensely over years, it has expanded to colleges and universities.

The first benefit to having the Internet on campus is email capabilities. The biggest advantage to this is the most obvious: communication. Email is the best type of student-professor connection away from the classroom. Not only does it avoid the awkward or annoying phone call to a professor on a Sunday night, but it also allows the student or professor to send documents if needed. For example, I had to miss class for a swim meet and therefore did not receive the homework assignment that was passed out during class. I emailed my professor and he was able to attach my homework assignment in his email back to me. Along the lines of communication, email allows students to hear about upcoming events, emergencies, or weather precautions. I received an email during the first week of classes about a robbery that occurred at the Wendy’s near Vanderbilt. This was an alarming yet informative email. Without email capabilities, it would have been difficult to alert all students of this occurrence. Email can also inform students about health related issues circulating campus. Recently, I’ve received many emails from our health department at Vanderbilt regarding the Swine Flu on our campus. How else would the campus be able to notify its students about clinics for those with Swine flu symptoms and shots available for prevention? What comes to my mind is a very time consuming and expensive process: posting flyers around campus. In reality, these emails actually make our campus healthier, while saving time and money.

However, communication’s advantages really are too good to be true. When people are writing a quick and speedy email, they tend to forgo proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Instead, they substitute it for a “cryptic looking code” known as acronyms. Netlingo.com, which presents a full list of Internet acronyms, says this abbreviated way of writing is an “integral part of computer culture.” The more emails and instant messages they send, the quicker this writing habit will grow. When it comes time to complete an important writing assignment or compose an important email or letter, the person might use their Internet language and lingo without even noticing. This can occur when a student emails a professor. Students can make themselves look very uneducated and disrespectful when using improper English and acronyms. “Spell check” is another short cut used amongst students. This can be used outside of class for various purposes such homework assignments or email. However, students do not receive this feature in class. When it comes time to take a test, this feature is not provided and students tend to suffer greatly without it.

Communication is not the only advancement of the Internet, however. During the first few weeks of classes here at Vanderbilt, I had to make some changes to my schedule. This process wouldn’t have been as efficient without the Internet. “OASIS” is a program that many universities use in order for students to manage their classes. Just a few clicks of the mouse and I was able to drop one class and add another. The last thing students need the first few hectic weeks of college is to stand in a long line and wait for someone to talk to in order to make changes to their schedules.

When changing my schedule, I added two new classes. Since I wasn’t originally in these classes, I was not present on the first day when syllabi were handed out. Luckily, many benefits of the Internet come from a program called “Blackboard.” The powers and capabilities of this program are endlessly felicitous for a university, which is why Vanderbilt, along with many universities have started to use this miracle of a program. Professor to student communication is often unnecessary when a university has “Blackboard.” With this program, documents and class handouts are easily attainable to students. Students no longer have to ask a teacher for a missing handout or assignment. Instead of emailing or asking the professors of my two new classes, I was conveniently able to find the syllabi on “OAK”, Vanderbilt’s form of “Blackboard.” Even more impressive, I didn’t have to print out the syllabi. I knew I could always report back to “OAK” whenever I needed to look at upcoming homework assignments, tests, and projects for a particular class.
A few weeks ago, “OAK” was down for a full day and I was not able to access important information needed for a test the next day. Although this was bad planning on my part, I thought “OAK” was a resource I never thought could let me down. However, students are let down by this website everyday. Often times, professors post information on “OAK” about various class topics, and they rely on the students checking “OAK” in order to obtain this information. There are many reasons as to why a student might not be able to go on the Internet to view class information, such as a busy schedule or a weak Internet connection. In any case, a student wouldn’t be able to hear the important information their professors were trying to relay to them.

Along with obtaining class work on “OAK”, one can also view their grades online. This has also become a great paper saver. Often, professors have hundreds of students and it would be very time consuming to print out everyone’s grades and distribute them during class time. However, it is extremely easy to log onto “OAK” and view your grades at any given time. This has already helped me tremendously this year. Every Thursday in my Statistics recitation, we take a quiz. Instead of waiting until the next Thursday to receive my quiz back, I am able to log onto “OAK” before then and view my grade. It’s always informative to see where you stand in a class. Most people, including myself, are always anxious to view their grades earned on tests and quizzes as soon as they become available. However, I always expect my grades to be on “OAK,” and it’s quite a disappointment when the website is down or the grades are not yet posted.

The Internet has also help foster early undertaking of future career paths, such as journalism and photography. Students are now able to publicly publish their work, free of charge and rejection. At the same time, they can receive public critique and suggestions. Somebody I know, who is an aspiring sports journalist, created a website last year in which he is able to “blog” about football teams, players, and offer criticism on plays from certain games. This website has become quite successful over the past few months. Not only is he able to interact with guests who offer comments on his articles, but he can also add this wonderful piece to his resume. This will help tremendously when applying for a job. The Internet has helped him gain more experience and exposure while he can do what he loves. However, many readers stumble across websites and these kinds of “blogs” that provide information that is either inaccurate, poorly written, or over opinionated. While searching for educational information, sifting through amateur work can sometimes be frustrating. On the other hand, all information found in libraries is professionally published and factually verified.

Social networks, such as “Facebook” and “Myspace,” are great for connecting, keeping in touch with friends, and gaming. However, they can potentially hinder academic performance in college. The outcome of spending an excessive amount of time on these two websites may result in decreased academic success. These websites are so addicting and have become a serious distraction for many students. Often times, students log onto “Facebook” while doing their homework and valuable time goes by without the student realizing. Even if students are on for a short amount of time, it can completely kill their train of thought. For example, one might be writing an essay but feels the need to go on “Facebook.” Ten minutes later, they return back to their essay and receive writer’s block because their mind is still focused on pictures and the latest gossip. It is even more harmful when students log onto “Facebook” during class. Not only is it disrespectful to the professor, but falling behind in the class is also bound happen when you are e-chatting with friends instead of taking notes. Ohio State University conducted a survey on a sample of its students, asking each of them if they had a facebook account, what their GPA is, and how many hours a week they study. The university concluded that “facebook users in the study had GPAs between 3.0 and 3.5, while non-users had GPAs between 3.5 and 4.02.” and “users said they averaged one to five hours a week studying, while non-users studied 11 to 15 hours per week.” These outrageous numbers demonstrate the detrimental impact “Facebook” has on students.

There are numerous websites that provide students with information about any particular topic. In addition, students can obtain this information within seconds, with search engines such as “Google.” “Wikipedia,” one of the most popular websites used amongst students, provides brief information in an easy and comprehendible way. For this reason, students have become dependent on the Internet is for a source of information. I remember when a research paper for my graphic design class was assigned and each individual in the class needed to collect information from three different sources. Two of these sources could be from the Internet. This was no problem at all for the students, as “Google” is a daily custom for most. However, the third source could not come from the Internet. My peers in class really started to stress out. When was the last time, if ever, that one of us had picked up a book or magazine for a source of information? It was all very new and unusual to us. This is quite a disadvantage, as information from books and magazines could be the best and most valid information.

The Internet presents great advantages to the modern university in which communication, convenience, and resource aid in college level study. However, there are also negative aspects that the Internet brings, which have potential of seriously damaging a student’s valuable time and academics. Universities rolled along just fine without the addition of the web, but no one can deny the fact that its efficiency and resources have helped them immensely throughout college. I think the Internet should be widespread amongst universities, but students should also be intelligent when using this powerful tool.
Footnotes
http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/facebookusers.htm
http://www.netlingo.com/acronyms.php

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